BY AYUSH SRIVASTAVA Follow @ayush_sri on twitter
The deadlock between I-League Professional Football Clubs Association (IPFCA) and IMG-Reliance is set to end, if the statement of Kushal Das, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary, is to go by.
During a studio debate on NDTV, a leading Indian television channel, he stated that the AIFF's marketing and commercial partners and the I-League clubs were close to reaching an agreement.
“I have spoken to the club representatives and I think a resolution is on its way. I think we should be able to resolve this situation quickly. We are very conscious that players are in a dilemma and spending sleepless nights. We should be able to end this (soon).”
Joined in the discussion by Churchill Brothers CEO Valanka Alemao and Indian national team captain Sunil Chhetri, the AIFF General Secretary launched a vehement defense of the federation and IMG-Reliance, reminding the clubs of how the I-League marketing right holders had invested money in the game, when everyone else had given up.
He stated, “All the stakeholders are here for the betterment of football and IMG-Reliance is definitely here for the betterment of football. If there was no hope (for Indian football) they wouldn’t be here. When Zee left and decided to move, there were no real takers but then IMG-Reliance came in and invested money.”
"Let’s put up a reality check. It has been more than ten years since the current version of the league was started and it has not caught any attraction. These are the market dynamics. There are no sponsors for the I-League; broadcasters have with great difficulty have shown less than 50 matches,” the AIFF official had pointed out
Das went on to reveal that he was optimistic that the new league that is being promoted by IMG-Reliance, would bring popularity to the game in India. He opined, “I think this would be the tournament that has a potential to bring in the eyeballs and raise the commercial value (of football in India). There is a possibility it will have a good affect on all of Indian football. There is a very good possibility that there will be a trickledown effect in Indian football. Maybe in future it can be integrated."
Shooting down the concerns of the clubs, the AIFF General Secretary also earlier in the debate revealed that IMG-Reliance, at the time when they signed a commercial deal with the AIFF, had included a clause regarding the new league. He revealed, “When the agreement with IMG-Reliance was signed, it was very clear they have the right to start a new league, whether by revamping the I-League or starting a new league, which is their option, and this agreement was discussed at the AIFF Executive Committee and thus everyone should be aware of it."
When Valanka Alemao later pointed out that this arrangement between the two parties was never revealed to the clubs, Das added, “There is a confidentiality clause (regarding the agreement between IMG-Reliance and AIFF). However all the parties were aware regarding the bare functionalities of the deal, and if they didn’t know it, they should have been knowing it.”